Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Official - Land/Timber Mafia Nexus"

A starkly revealing news about corruption in the Kashmir valley

Illegal Constructions Galore in Pahalgam Vicinity; Authorities in Slumber

Pahalgam: With High Court imposing ban on constructions in this tourist resort following the Public Interest Litigation by Peoples Welfare Organization, the land mafia and the hoteliers have started eyeing other major tourist spots located in the vicinity as illegal constructions galore there.

Sources say many ‘illegal’ constructions had already come up on State, grazing and forest land as well as on the banks of the famous Lidder river, in Yanad, Gujrani Batikote, Batikote and Ganeshpora, barely few Kilometers away from Pahalgam, thus disturbing the fragile ecosystem and also polluting the river.

“After the Court imposed ban on the construction in Pahalgam, the land mafia and influential hoteliers have shifted their base to other tourist destinations which have not been included in the flawed master plan and has been kept outside the jurisdiction of Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA),” sources said.

They said in Moora village of Yanad near the Rafting point, the land mafia had allegedly grabbed some 27 Kanals of State land and then sold it over to some big hoteliers and till now about 20 huts and guest houses have come up there. “Even the tourism department has designated it as hutment area, giving go ahead to these illegal constructions,” they added.

They said downstream Lidder, where the rafting culminates, a grazing land had also been encroached upon by the hoteliers with a concrete road having already been carved out of it as constructions continue to thrive there.

“In Gujrani Batikoot area, the influential people have plundered the huge forest area by resorting to felling of green pine trees to pave way for the illegal constructions with tacit support of forest officials,” sources said adding about 25 huts had already been erected there.

Sources said that in Amad which has been designated as wildlife zone, two huts had been raised by influential persons allegedly in connivance with the Wildlife officials while many more have illegally occupied land for construction purpose.

Similarly, sources reveal that all the building permission norms had been ignored while raising structures in Batikoot and Ganeshpora areas.

“In Batikote, the course of the river has been entirely changed and the constructions have come up barely 10 meters away from Lidder, thus disturbing its flora and fauna,” sources said. They said in Ganeshpora area two huts had come up barely few meters away from the Lidder.

“The solid waste is being dumped near the river while the sewage generated from the hotels and huts is directly poured into it,” sources added.

“We fail to understand that if the authorities have expressed concern over deteriorating condition of Lidder in Pahalgam, why aren’t they bothered about the same in the areas located downstream,” some of the officials added.

They suggested that in order to save these scenic spots from turning into concrete jungles like it has happened in Pahalgam, the government should wake up from the slumber. “The five member committee formed by the government on the recommendations of Court to submit report on the illegal structures and drafting of new Master plan in Pahalgam should bring all these areas under Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA).”

PDA Chief Executive Officer, Mir Altaf when contacted said, “Though these tourist spots don’t fall within the development authority, but I have time and again raised the issue of saving these fragile zones with various departments including; Fisheries, Flood control Protection, Roads and Building as well as Revenue.” He said he had already conveyed to the higher ups including the Principal District and Sessions judge, Anantnag (Islamabad) about the need of bringing the areas under the purview of Development Authority in the revised Master Plan. (Greater Kashmir)

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